When there is an emergency, most people dial 911 without thinking. Oftentimes afterwards, they are glad that they did because this service sends responders to your location when you or someone else is in need of help.
But what is being pointed out by a new federal rule is the fact that people with disabilities may also require the help of emergency responders or may want to call for help on someone else’s behalf. With the current system though, this is particularly difficult for someone who is mute or is unable to articulate their situation over the phone.
This is going to change though with the help of the Federal Communications Commission and a new rule issued by the organization. Adopted earlier this month, the FCC’s rule will require all wireless carriers to utilize technology that will allow a person to text in their emergency rather than call. By making 911 services accessible to people with disabilities, the FCC is making sure that this important service is truly accessible to everyone.
Although four of our nation’s largest carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless — are already equipped with this kind of systems, the FCC rule will make sure that smaller carriers also comply with the rule by the end of the year.
At present time, the FCC rule seems to only affect wireless phone services. This will not address the other part of the problem: how will emergency services receive these messages? Although some cities in some states have the technology to receive and respond to text-to-911 messages, many states do not. This may be a concern for some here in Illinois, especially if this service will not be available everywhere for quite some time.
Source: Disability Scoop, “Nation’s 911 System Inching Towards Greater Accessibility,” Shaun Heasley, Aug. 12, 2014